Medvedev sends law to Duma lowering party threshold to 5 pct

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has sent a draft law to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, lowering the percentage of the vote required for parties to hold seats in parliament from seven percent to five percent.

Russia has a proportional representation system of voting for Duma candidates, who must be on a party list.

The Right Cause political party has expressed support for Medvedev’s proposal, but says the five percent threshold is still high and Russia needs an even lower barrier.

“I personally believe that three percent is the maximum threshold for our very diverse country,” party’s co-chairman Leonid Gozman said.

Critics of Russia’s electoral system say the threshold works to exclude small parties from the political system. In the 2007 elections, only three parties passed the threshold, the ruling United Russia party, the LDPR and the Communist Party (KPRF).

The next Duma elections will take place in December, followed by presidential elections in March 2012. The change in the threshold, if implemented, will apply to the following 2016 elections.

The Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) proposed discussing introducing a unified election threshold for parliamentary parties and candidates on Friday.

The call came as a reaction to a report by Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marti in which he urged Russia “to lower its parliamentary threshold.”

“Let’s lower the threshold even more,” Russian senator Alexander Pochinok said.

Pochinok called on the meeting not to divide Europe according to “countries where democracy has won” and “countries with insufficient democracy.”

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